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For a medical journal, the 25th anniversary of its foundation is a notable milestone and a cause for celebration. Many journals (including some in the same field) have not survived as long. And Seizure—European Journal of Epilepsy, which celebrates this particular achievement with this Special Issue, has only done so through a process of continuous change.
Phil Lee’s contribution to this issue reminds us of the early years of this journal [
]. In 1992, the first year of its publication, Tim Betts, the recently deceased Founding Editor, provided 40% of the content to get Seizure going. At that time little more than one million people had access to the internet (and “accessing” the internet would have involved a dial-in modem, a device many of Seizure’s younger readers would not know what to do with). Writing a paper still involved trips to the library, finding links to references in reference books or on microfiche, and photocopying the sources thus identified. Several paper copies of the finished article would have to be sent to the journal office from where they were forwarded on by mail to reviewers who submitted their reviews by post or fax. Not surprisingly, this process took many weeks. The complexity of the process is one important explanation why Seizure published far fewer manuscripts than it does today and why the vision and tenacity of the Founding Editor and his (largely British) Editorial Board continue to deserve respect.
Skipping forward 25 years, the number of manuscripts reviewed and published by Seizure has increased fourfold (see Fig. 1), while manuscript-handling times have dropped sharply. Many of the steps involved in communicating research findings to an international audience have benefitted immeasurably from computation and automation. Authors can find appropriate references much more quickly. They can use computer programs to turn their spread sheets into figures and upload their work from anywhere in the world in minutes. Most manuscripts can be written without the need for a library (at least without a library with shelves, “real” books and paper journals). Perhaps more importantly, the revolution in information technology and that has taken place over the last quarter century now allows clinicians and researchers from all around the world to share their ideas and observations.
Seizure took some of the most important steps to becoming the international journal it is today under the editorship of Paul Boon and Bert Aldenkamp (2003–2010). During this time it acquired its full name Seizure—European Journal of Epilepsy and an Editorial Board to match the ambition this title encapsulates [
]. Since 2010 Seizure has remained the European Journal of Epilepsy although it has become a truly global, 24/7 operation with editors, editorial board members, reviewers, contributors and readers on all continents (admittedly – as yet – excepting Antarctica). We can rightfully claim that Seizure never sleeps. It makes particular efforts to reach out to countries and contributors who are only just beginning to show their full potential to contribute to the growth of understanding in the field.
25 years ago, Seizure exclusively communicated with its readers through the medium of print. Clinicians or researchers unlucky enough to work for an organisation not subscribing to the journal had to order papers by interlibrary loan —or send a letter to the corresponding author and ask for an offprint of the paper (remember them?). Today, Seizure is still printed but the number of subscribers to the printed edition is diminishing every year. At the same time the number of readers of Seizure has strongly continued to grow (see Fig. 3). Today, clinicians and researchers can access its content from any internet-connected computer terminal (or mobile device) anywhere in the world. It has been a great source of pleasure and pride to those involved in the production of the journal that the “use” of Seizure content, as measured by page views to www.seizure-journal.com and, perhaps more importantly, downloads, has risen dramatically over the last few years, from about 280,000 full page views and downloads in 2012 to about 900,000 in 2016 (see Fig. 3). This means that currently, almost 2500 papers published in Seizure are read every day! As importantly, Seizure content is accessed from an ever-increasing number of countries, confirming Seizure’s current status as a global journal (Fig. 2).
While all these improvements and this growth are a source of optimism for the next quarter of a century, past performance does not guarantee future success. We cannot look into the future, but we can be certain that Seizure—European Journal of Epilepsy will look very different in 25 years. We may not see quite as many technical developments in terms of preparing manuscripts, but changes in the way research is funded and carried out and the blurring of some of the traditional boundaries between health care users and providers as well as between different professional groups (for instance between the roles of doctors, technicians and nurses) will transform the publication landscape. Although the traditional scientific paper format has proven remarkably resilient, those of us who have grown up reading and writing actual “papers” (and who now expect PDFs to copy this time-honoured format) will die out and research users more familiar with seeking answers by searching websites, and absorbing information presented in audio or video formats will become more numerous. As a diminishing number of publications appear in print, more informal information sharing will become more commonplace. In line with this, traditional academic performance indicators such as the number of publications in journals with a certain Impact Factor or even the H-index may become less important than Altmetrics or other measures which take more immediate account of the social impact of a particular publication.
The increasing availability of research findings to patients and their families could become an important driver to improvements in the quality and provision of care. It is also likely to foster more direct communication between them and the authors of scientific papers and have an effect on the ways in which data are presented. In time, these changes may make it easier for individuals without medical training to contribute optimally to clinical decision making processes, as discussed by Steven Schachter in his contribution to this Special Issue [
The expectation of public (and an increasing number of charity) research funders for the work they have supported to be published in open access media will affect the funding model of medical journals and is another important driver for future changes to medical publishing practices. While the greater global penetration of up-to-date information using internet-based knowledge exchange platforms is great news for health care professionals in countries with little access to medical libraries, these platforms also threaten the copyright income journals receive. Combined with a re-allocation of advertising funds to non-journal communication platforms the changes in the journal funding landscape will be another key driver for developments in the publishing landscape of the future.
However, now it is time to celebrate. In the preparation of the Special Issue, the editorial team has been humbled by the affection the many contributors have expressed for this journal by giving up much of their precious time and by adding their “anniversary present” to what is now a truly outstanding collection of review articles. By providing their expert insights into topics such as the aetiology of epilepsy [
], these articles provide great examples of the mission and scope of Seizure. What is more, these contributions show just how far the field has advanced in the last 25 years and give us a sense of what might be achieved over the next quarter of a century.
25 years ago Tim Betts argued in the opening editorial of the first issue of Seizure “because so many advances are taking place in so many different areas, and because the full management of both seizures and people with epilepsy involves many different professionals, all of whom have their different skills to give, there is a need for a journal which reflects these changes and which also represents the interests of all of those involved in the management of people with epilepsy. There is a great need for these professionals to communicate with each other .” [
The need for professionals to exchange information, talk to each other and collaborate has not diminished and is unlikely to do so in the future. Medicine is complex. If anything, interdisciplinary and international communication will be more important in the future as the accumulation of knowledge continues to drive professional subspecialisation and diversification. New and better answers to the many problems people with seizures still face are badly needed and will emerge more quickly when international collaboration is possible and the free exchange of information easy. At a time when people in many countries seem to long for walls and when nationalism appears resurgant, there is therefore a continuing, and indeed increasing role for Seizure to allow researchers from around the world to share their ideas with each other and with clinicians trying to do the best for their patients.
In this spirit we are very grateful to UCB, LivaNova, GSK, Abbott Laboratories and the European Academy of Neurology who have sponsored this Special Issue and enabled us to distribute it to clinicians around the world. We hope that you will join us and these sponsors in wishing Seizure—European Journal of Epilepsy all the very best for the next quarter century and beyond.
☆Authors of this paper are a member of the current editorial team of Seizure. The supervision of the independent peer review process was undertaken and the decision about the publication of this manuscript were made by other members of the editorial team.